Diversifying Engineering Education: A Transdisciplinary Approach From RWTH Aachen University

Diversifying Engineering Education: A Transdisciplinary Approach From RWTH Aachen University

Linda Steuer (RWTH Aachen University, Germany), Anna Bouffier (RWTH Aachen University, Germany), Sonja Gaedicke (RWTH Aachen University, Germany) and Carmen Leicht-Scholten (RWTH Aachen University, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2212-6.ch010
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Engineers and therefore engineering education are challenged by the increasing complexity of questions to be answered globally. The education of future engineers therefore has to answer with curriculums that build up relevant skills. This chapter will give an example how to bring engineering and social responsibility successful together to build engineers of tomorrow. Through the integration of gender and diversity perspectives, engineering research and teaching is expanded with new perspectives and contents providing an important potential for innovation. Aiming on the enhancement of engineering education with distinctive competencies beyond technical expertise, the teaching approach introduced in the chapter represents key factors to ensure that coming generations of engineers will be able to meet the requirements and challenges a changing globalized world holds for them. The chapter will describe how this approach successfully has been implemented in the curriculum in engineering of a leading technical university in Germany.
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“Made In Germany” - Engineering Education In Germany

Historically German engineering had its origins in military crafts, evolving into the civic sector when a growing demand for technical applications in a broad scope of fields emerged due to the increasing use of technology during industrialization. To meet these new challenges engineering education found its way from military academies to universities. Since its commencement thru up until today engineering has always been a key factor for technological progress and economic prosperity (Knoll & Ratzer, 2010).

“Made in Germany” stands for the high reputation of German engineering worldwide. Hence, German engineering graduates are ranked among the international elite because of their profound professional expertise and leadership competencies. Thus, engineering presents the flagship discipline within the scientific profile of amongst leading German universities. The longstanding tradition of women absence within the military constitutes a strongly male-dominated and conservative disciplinary culture, shaping persistent institutional structures, stable curricula contents, and learning formats through many decades (Franzke, 2010; Leicht-Scholten 2008; Steuer, 2014).

Even today German engineering studies are significantly characterized by small numbers of women. The imbalance of sex in engineering programs is represented by only 22, 8% of female graduates in 2014 (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2015, p. 13; see Figure 1). However, the count of females has been rising minimally extends due to extensive efforts the relevant institutions started, especially since the turn of the millennium, all in all there is a great persistence concerning the level of minor female amounts in engineering education (Leicht-Scholten, Breuer, Tulodetzki & Wolffram 2011; Leicht-Scholten, 2011a).

Figure 1.

German engineering graduates 2014

(Own Figure, data based on Statistisches Bundesamt, 2015a, p. 13)

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